Kucinich brought up Assad’s medical credentials and asked him how his actions squared with the Hippocratic Oath. Assad replied that doctors must protect the life of a patient, but that “sometimes they have to extract the bad member that could kill the patient,” an allusion to the “terrorists” his forces are trying to rout from Syrian society.
British media first reported that Kucinich was back in Damascus this week. The Syrian presidency’s social media pages later confirmed the news and said that Kucinich was part of an American delegation that included former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.
Michael Clemente, executive vice president for news at Fox, said in a statement that Kucinich had advised him Sept. 7 that he thought he could secure an interview with Assad. At the time, Clemente said, the U.S. appeared ready to strike Syria, so he asked Kucinich to pursue an interview on conditions that Fox News journalists would be included. By the time the interview was filmed, by a Syrian crew and with no restrictions on questions that could be asked, the U.S. and Russia had struck a deal to seize Assad’s chemical arsenal by mid-2014.
The political and armed opposition sides have yet to master the art of public relations, in large part because they’re made up of notoriously divided figures who’ve failed to form a united front with one message. Spokespeople are often difficult to reach, opposition leaders contradict one another. Among the rebels, media coordination is also spotty, and it’s often the extremist fighters who boast the most sophisticated media wings. Opposition activists have taken extreme risks to document the grisly aftermaths of government offensives, only to find their work undermined by other videos that have been exposed as outdated or staged.
Many anti-Assad activists blame the United States and other Western powers for waiting so long to bolster the moderate opposition that now the war would appear to outsiders as a showdown between an authoritarian regime and al Qaida. Assad doesn’t hesitate to exploit that simplistic narrative.
“President Obama’s indecisiveness has created an opportunity for Assad to push his agenda and to peddle himself as a far better alternative to the rebels. He is succeeding,” said Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian dissident and human rights activist. “Even the secular opposition hasn’t been able to produce the right caliber leaders to rise to the PR challenges.”